There was a time when IT hardware innovated so rapidly, that companies had to replace their entire IT infrastructure every three to five years. Over the years however, thanks to detailed reports by analysts such as Gartner and Forrester, we have gained an increased insight into our infrastructures and we now understand that not every part of our IT-environment innovates at the same speed. Because a budget surplus is, for most IT departments, a luxury they will never experience, it seems obvious we should use these insights to break the enforced life-cycles of our IT equipment and stop wasting money on replacing hardware that can last for years. This way we can create financial room to innovate where it matter.
Hardware manufacturers have been very successful at influencing the market in recent decades. Organizations were convinced of the need to upgrade according to cycles the original equipment manufacturer dictated. Upgrading the entire network at once was preferable to avoid compatibility problems, bottlenecks and the end of maintenance contracts. That sounds logical, and for a time maybe it was. We saw our IT infrastructure as closed entities, indivisible and uniform. Because of this our VoIP solutions, our data centers, our security systems and the routing and switching equipment in our networks were all subject to the same cycle of innovation. Contracts with manufacturers left the customer with little choice about when upgrades happened and what was being renewed. If you wanted to break this cycle, to cut costs for example, you stood more or less alone and had to hope that you would not need replacement parts for equipment that had reached the end-of-life stage, according to the manufacturer.
Differentiation of the lifecycle
The increasingly detailed information about our business networks by IT analysts such as Gartner and Forrester has given us the understanding that not everything needs to be replaced simultaneously. LAN equipment behind the firewall innovates at a different pace than high end data center equipment and firewalls. Security may be outdated more quickly than VoIP solutions. You might need a firewall with greater capacity, but should you also immediately replace all your routers and switches? When we differentiate the lifecycle of the various parts of our networks, it opens up unprecedented opportunities for cost savings and efficiency improvement.
In order for organizations to determine which elements of their IT infrastructure they want to upgrade and which parts they want to keep, they will need to adopt a hybrid approach of their network maintenance. This is now possible, thanks to the emergence of Third-Party Maintenance (TPM), which provides organizations support and maintenance, also for equipment that has reached end of life according to the hardware manufacturer. The rise of the TPM industry gives organizations the opportunity to finally achieve a more efficient, hybrid IT infrastructure, which not only saves costs, but also creates space for targeted innovation.
Free and independent
A hybrid approach enables organizations to break free from OEM mandated upgrade cycles, which puts the decision making power back in the hands of the Customer who knows their business needs best. There are always parts of your network that will need an upgrade, but now we can define those parts more precisely thanks to the detailed insights mentioned. For example, a TPM partner does not have the same vested interests as the hardware manufacturer and does not need to realize sales expectations for a new line of switches, routers or servers. The TPM partner advises in an objective manner, unhindered by manufacturer-specific interests and fully in service of the organization. A TPM partner can therefore not only help to maintain the simple network components, but can also advise you on the innovation of complex parts. Thus, TPM gives organizations control back over the upgrade cycle brings back a degree of common sense into an organization’s IT strategy and commits organizations to innovation.
Who will you work with?
Of course it is important that you select a TPM partner that has a proven expertise in the hardware of your organization. But besides being technically capable, such a partner should also be logistically capable. When a part of your network needs to be replaced, you want that to happen immediately, with no downtime for your organization. This implies that your maintenance partner should be used to working with large volumes, must have sufficient coverage in your region, sufficient international reach with a robust FSL (Forward Stocking Location) network and have the necessary import and export licenses for delivery wherever you need.
Good advice for anyone considering a TPM is to consult with an independent analyst firm and find out what they can tell you about a potential TPM partner and what the market thinks of that partner.
The future is hybrid
Innovation in business will always be a priority. That is precisely why it is so important that we differentiate our networks and break them up into several parts, with different priorities. Our budget is limited. With this understanding we can determine more precisely which product innovations directly benefit our business and which products can keep up just fine for a few years. Only when organizations understand this will they be able to cope with the fast developments in IT. When analyst firms such as Gartner and Forrester note that there are considerable benefits to third-party maintenance and hybrid IT solutions, you know that the market is ready for a large-scale adoption.